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Learning the Suzuki way

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
Shinichi Suzuki

The Suzuki Method of learning music is a dynamic and differentiated method of learning for children, that works alongside a child’s natural development. Founded by Dr Shinichi Suzuki in the mid 1900’s, the Suzuki philosophy draws upon the fact that all children, regardless of their perceived aptitude, learn to speak a complex language, their “mother tongue”, equally from their parents.




Learning by ear – the Mother Tongue Method

Suzuki children do not read music at first. They learn by ear. This enables them to focus on really learning how to play the music – by creating a good quality tone and technique, without having too much else in their heads to focus on at the time. Reading can come later. When Dr Suzuki first introduced this concept, it was considered a radical and contrasting approach.  Known as the mother-tongue approach, the method is based on the principle that by immersing young children in music, mainly by having them listen repeatedly to the pieces they will learn to play on their instrument, their musical abilities would unfold in the most natural way. This is proven to work. When Suzuki‘s young Japanese students were heard, first in a film presented in the United States in 1958, then during a tour in 1964, the quality of their performance was for many a testimony of the success of this method.

 

Children start young

Because emphasis is on a Mother Tongue approach to learning, Suzuki encourages children to start from a young age. Some children start as young as 2 years old. Most fundamental motor patterns emerge before the age of 5, and they are still very eager to mimic and receive praise from their parents (see more of this below). For this reason the foundations are laid early, and teaching music in the early stages has long-lasting effects. Having said that, there is no absolute requirement to start this young – you can start your child off in Suzuki whenever you like or whenever feels right.

Parental involvement/encouragement

Core to the Suzuki philosophy is parental involvement. Regardless of how much musical experience you have, you still have a vital role to play in your child’s music education. Young children want to emulate you. They learned to talk from you, they want to imitate you, and they take all cues in life from you. This is scientific fact as well as common sense. For this reason, we know that children learn music better when guided by their parents – whether musical or not – properly. Your child’s teacher spends a small amount of time with your child each week, and therefore your involvement as a parent – to guide, encourage, and nurture their musical progression is essential. For this reason, parents need to attend lessons so they know exactly what they are helping their child with.

Structure through pieces not scales

The Suzuki pedagogy is an ingeniously constructed learning progression, which layers on the additional techniques and skills through the pieces of music. Each piece layers a new concept onto the foundation developed by the previous pieces, and every piece has an emphasis on developing a good sound and tone. Gone are endless scales and exercises which children get bored of fairly quickly. That is not to say that there is no less work put into developing the technique versus traditional scales and exercises, but the progression and hard work is made much more fun, interesting, and exciting for the child.

Tonalisation – developing a good tone from the start

Tonalisation (a phrase invented by Dr Suzuki) is the core Suzuki approach to making the right sound on the violin, viola or cello. Tonalisation refers to the ability to not only produce, but also recognise a beautiful, ringing tone. Children are taught tonalisation from the moment the bow is first drawn across the string. The pieces in Book 1 are designed to be able to focus on and develop the techniques needed to produce this tone.

Group Lessons - one of the most important parts of Suzuki (see the section on group lessons)

Group lessons are a unique and very fun aspect about the Suzuki program. In fact many feel this is the best part of the whole thing. Students will build long-lasting bonds with other students, learn from each other, learn to play in an ensemble and above all have a lot of fun. This is so important we have dedicated a separate page to group lessons.

Teachers are highly trained

Suzuki teachers are highly trained. Each teacher undergoes up to 5 years’ worth of training, including Suzuki technique and tone, in-depth study of the syllabus and numerous teaching points that go along side each piece, learning how to make lessons fun and interesting for young children, managing group lessons, as well as extensive study of the Suzuki philosophy and history. You can be assured that your Suzuki teacher will be equipped with the tools to make sure your child develops to the best of their ability and has fun along the way.

Part of the International Suzuki Community

Suzuki is not just a music method, but an inclusive, fun, and very rewarding community of students, parents, and teachers, all with a like-minded approach. On top of the weekly group lessons, there are opportunities to attend workshops, camps, talks, social events, through which life-long friendships and bonds are formed. Only about 5% of Suzuki students go on to be professional musicians! Suzuki music is not just a music professional’s path to career, it is a way of life that your child will take with them for the rest of their lives, whatever they choose to do.

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